Amber Key, Gaston College alum takes every precaution to safeguard her patients from Covid-19 as a frontline worker in Gastonia.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Certified Medical Assistant Amber Key applies skills she learned at Gaston College

(January 28, 2021 Issue)

Amber Key, a 2018 graduate of Gaston College’s Medical Assisting program, has been a frontline worker in helping patients adapt to COVID-19 restrictions. Key manages the anemia clinic at Metrolina Nephrology Associates in Gastonia and has had to modify her normal procedures to observe the safeguards needed to protect her patients as much as possible.
Key was already a phlebotomist – a technician who draws blood for tests and performs blood transfusions – when she entered the Medical Assisting program in 2016. She graduated in May 2018 and had a perfect score on the American Association of Medical Assistants’ Certification Exam. “I chose Medical Assisting because I felt it would help make me more versatile in the workplace,” Key said.
She has worked at Metrolina Nephrology Associates since she graduated from Gaston College. Since COVID-19 has been a consideration, her job has become “more tedious” than it was before. “All patients have to be screened prior to coming into the office,” she said. “I see fewer patients on a daily basis due to needing more time for the screening and to trying to make sure patients are safely distanced from each other.” In order to minimize exposure for some of her more fragile patients, she has been going outside to their cars, where she does vitals and gets the capillary samples, she needs from them. “My main goal is to give the patients the best care that I can, and to keep them, my coworkers and myself safe.”
To ensure safety, Key always wears full Personal Protective Equipment, including face mask, gloves, goggles, and gown. She washes her hands frequently, and everything used in her workplace is sanitized and wiped down with approved cleaning agents. Key also makes sure to wipe down the steering wheel, door handles and other surfaces in her car.
The Gaston College Medical Assisting program gave Key the knowledge and skills she needed for her position. “I am very happy with my career. It fits my lifestyle,” she said. “My goal is to continue to learn as much as I can and continue to contribute as much as I can at my workplace.”
The coronavirus pandemic, however, has required some previously unanticipated adjustments to the way Key approaches her job. “I honestly don’t think that any amount of school can prepare you for actually dealing with a pandemic,” she said. “I do feel that my education at Gaston College prepared me for the change in my responsibilities because you have to know how to adapt to whatever is presented to you and still maintain that level of patient care. It is so important to have a high standard when working in this field. If you start the Medical Assisting program with high expectations from Day One, by the time you’ve completed the program it is second nature and it just carries over to the work environment.”
The Gaston College Medical Assisting program gives students the clinical and administrative skills needed to help others as a medical professional. Medical assistants combine their knowledge of the human body and their organizational training to be effective and important members of health response teams, whether in a physician’s office, clinic, or hospital.
The two-year Gaston College Medical Assisting program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs. Graduates of the program receive their Associate of Applied Science degree and qualify to take the AAMA certification examination to become a Certified Medical Assistant. For more information on the Gaston College Medical Assisting program, call 704-922-2274.

Community VFD safety tips

(January 28, 2021 Issue)

Community VFD in North Belmont is offering these safety tips for the cold weather and new year

Keep Pets Indoors When Possible
If it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pets. Don’t keep your pets outdoors for long periods of time during very cold weather. Short-coated dogs may need a coat or sweater during walks.

Provide Outdoor Shelter for Your Pets
If you have outdoor dogs, make sure they have a dry, draft-free doghouse that:
Is large enough for pets to sit and lie down in, but small enough to retain their body heat.
Has a floor that is elevated a few inches off the ground and is covered with cedar shavings or straw.
Has an entrance that faces away from heavy winds and is covered with a flap of heavy waterproof fabric or heavy plastic.

Home Safety Tips
The first step is continuing to be diligent about fire safety in your home by testing the batteries (and replacing if needed) on smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
Keep pets and children away from lit candles and fireplaces. Also, keep matches and lighters in a locked cabinet out of reach of children.
Do not leave food unattended in the kitchen when you are cooking, this is especially true when frying and boiling items on the stovetop. Keep children and pets away from cooking surfaces and hot pans and dishes.

Congratulations GEMS


YMCA invites you to join free RESET challenge

(January 28, 2021 Issue)

Sick and tired of feeling sick and tired in these COVID-19 times? The Gaston County Family YMCA invites all in the community to participate in a free six-week Reset challenge designed to help transform spirit, mind and body.
“Now, more than ever before we need to recharge and refocus,” said Gaston County Family YMCA CEO Sharon Padgett. “The COVID-19 pandemic has worn us down. It’s isolated us in so many ways. This challenge provides an opportunity to get active and healthier by yourself or as a family.”
Beginning in January 2021, you can opt-in to the free challenge by texting RESET to 844.473.9622​. Follow the prompts to sign-up for the challenge that begins February 1. You will receive three prompts via text/email each week filled with motivation, challenges, workouts and more. Participating in the Reset challenge will also let you attend the Y for each Wednesday during the challenge to enjoy swimming, working out and a variety of classes. It also gives you access to our Virtual Y through March 2021 to workout wherever you are. These classes are available via Facebook including Zumba, yoga, HIIT and many more. In addition the first 500 registered participants to stop into the Y can pick up a complimentary exercise band.
Throughout the challenge wellness team will invite members and participants to a variety of activities, like pop-up classes and nature walks. Visit online at and learn more about the Nationwide Reset challenge and all of the free community activities.

Diabetes workshop planned

Do you or a family member have pre-diabetes, diabetes, or at risk for diabetes?  If so, then don’t miss this opportunity to learn how to better take control of your diabetes. NC Cooperative Extension and Gaston County Adult Services are offering the virtual workshop “Living Healthy at Home with Diabetes” a free online self-management program which begins February 2021.
Living Healthy at Home with Diabetes is an evidence-based, diabetes self-management program originally developed at Stanford University. The program is designed for anyone with diabetes, pre-diabetes, or at risk for diabetes. Participants will learn how to prevent low blood sugar; prevent and delay complications of diabetes; eat well; use medications effectively; manage pain, fatigue and depression; solve problems and set goals. The program is valued at more than $800 and there is no cost to participants.
The program consists of six weekly online sessions scheduled for Tuesdays, February 2nd through March 9th from 9:30am – 12:00pm. All sessions will be held online so participants are able to remain safely at home. There is no cost to attend, but group size is limited to 12 participants with priority given to Gaston County residents.
A copy of “Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions” workbook and a relaxation CD will be provided to all participants. Pre-registration is required by contacting Linda Minges - 704.922.2127 or by January 28, 2021. This program is sponsored by Centralina Area Agency on Aging.


New art exhibit at
Gaston County Museum

(January 28, 2021 Issue)

The Gaston County Museum, 131 W. Main St., Dallas, presents a new exhibit by Bob Matthews- Everything Is A Nail- January 19 – May 15, 2021 in the Bullpen Gallery/GCM Website.
Often combining religious icons with political commentary, Rob Matthews’ work can be described as curiously disorienting. According to Matthews, who was born in North Carolina and currently resides in Nashville, “Themes of upheaval, power, displacement and the unspoken message of ‘home’ anchor the work. Some subjects of the paintings are heroes. Other subjects are villains. The remaining that are depicted are caught in the middle. All of the work is made to spend time considering events and people that get lost in the shuffle of the ever-changing news cycle.”  The exhibit features 11 paintings over canvas on wood panels.
Congratulations to Forestview High School athletic trainer Jarrett Friday. He was selected to serve as an athletic trainer for the 2021 Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas football game. Gaston Schools photo

Gaston County Schools Good News

(January 21, 2021 Issue)

The Gaston County Board of Education received the following “good news” about Gaston County Schools for the month of December 2020:
The five finalists for Gaston County Schools Teacher of the Year 2021-2022 are Savanna Abernathy, Bessemer City Central Elementary; Natalie Childers, Gardner Park Elementary; Bethany Hartley, Hunter Huss High School; Casey Miller, Stanley Middle School; and Staci Nezezon, Pinewood Elementary.  The winner will be announced this spring during the annual Evening of Excellence program.
Gaston County Schools is first in the state for the number of Career and Technical Education (CTE) credentials earned by students and first in the state for the percentage of students earning more than one credential in a particular CTE area.  It is the only time since the state began tallying credential performance data in 2010-2011 that the same school district has earned top rankings in both categories in the same year.  Additionally, four high schools rank in the top 15 statewide for the number of credentials earned by students during the 2019-2020 year.  Hunter Huss High School is ranked second in the state with 2,976 credentials.  Ashbrook High School ranks fifth with 2,297 credentials, Forestview High School ranks 13th with 1,721 credentials, and Stuart W. Cramer High School ranks 14th with 1,706 credentials.
Gaston County Schools had four schools and two central level departments that had 100 percent participation in the United Way fundraising campaign.  In addition, 10 schools had an increase of more than 50 percent in giving when compared to last year.  For the 2020-2021 year, employees from our schools and central level departments contributed more than $93,000 to the United Way to help fund important programs in Gaston County.
Teachers in Gaston County Schools received grants totaling $20,000 through the Ron L. Ensley grants program that is sponsored by the Gaston County Education Foundation. This year, 21 grants were presented to teachers to support creative classroom activities at schools across the county.
Gaston County Schools had eight teachers who renewed their National Board Certification this year.  They are Shara Beatty, Costner Elementary; Kelly Carpenter, Mount Holly Middle; Kelly Pacetti, Webb Street School; Robin Melton, Pleasant Ridge Elementary; Bobbi Neely, McAdenville Elementary; Cheryl Parker, Springfield Elementary; Cara Pohlman, Mount Holly Middle; and Ingrid Rockhead, Gaston Virtual Academy.
The following students were chosen as the “Do the Right Thing” award winners for November: Grace Kucera, W.A. Bess Elementary; Regan Long, Belmont Middle; and Cali Barnette, Hunter Huss High School.
The Cherryville High School athletics department earned Level One status in the National Federation of State High School Associations Honor Roll.  The national recognition program is designed to promote professional development for high school coaches who have an opportunity to complete online education courses through the NFHS Learning Center.  Cherryville High School is the only school in Gaston County to earn the certification and one of only 33 schools in North Carolina.  Scott Harrill is the school’s athletic director.
Pisgah ARP Church in Gastonia contributed a total of $52,350 in grants to classroom teachers, art teachers, and media specialists in Gaston County Schools as part of the Kenley Estate Scholarship Fund.
The Community Foundation of Gaston County’s Next Generation Fund and the Gaston County Education Foundation donated $6,000 to Gaston County Schools for personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies.
The Gaston Association of Realtors presented $2,000 to Gaston County Schools for the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The Gastonia Evening Rotary Club conducted a coat drive for Gaston County Schools.  Club representatives Ashley Lorance and Jackie Gonzalez presented 61 coats to the school district for distribution to students in need.
The Stuart W. Cramer High School boys cross country team won the Big South 3A championship.  In addition, Nick Willer, Stuart W. Cramer; Austin Brotemarkle,  Forestview; Zack Willer, Stuart W. Cramer; Oussama Ajala, Forestview; Jacob Wootton, Stuart W. Cramer; Michael Gates, Ashbrook; and Luke Auten, Stuart W. Cramer, earned all-conference honors.
The Forestview High School girls cross country team won the Big South 3A championship. In addition, Emma Hughlette, Forestview; Alexander Floder, Forestview; Summer Bahr, Stuart W. Cramer; Keaton Schneider, Stuart W. Cramer; and Sarah Shiflet, Forestview, earned all-conference honors.
South Point High School cross country runners Emmanuel Paddyfote and Cooper Ray and East Gaston High School runner Jacob Mullen earned Southwestern 2A all-conference honors.
W.B. Beam Intermediate fourth grade students had the opportunity to learn about amateur radio from principal Todd Dellinger and counselor Mark Reep.  In addition, Oak Grove Baptist Church of Cherryville surprised the staff with a delicious lunch.
The Belmont Central Elementary cafeteria staff earned a 100 percent sanitation rating. In addition, the String Bean restaurant in Belmont donated 65 boxed lunches for the staff to enjoy.
W.A. Bess Elementary was selected as an alternate by the N.C. Department of Instruction for nomination to the 2020 National Blue Ribbon Schools Program.
W.A. Bess Elementary art students created a 3D mini museum.  The students chose images for display that were provided by the teacher, and they were asked to draw at least one work of art that was their own.  On their remote days at home, the students were given supplies to make a pedestal box and sculpture using model magic clay. Laura Farmer is the school’s art teacher.
W.A. Bess Elementary students Jacie Buchanan, Ella Wortman, and Holly Russell were the top winners in a school fundraiser.  For being the top winners, each student got to throw a pie in principal Laura Dixon’s face.
Bessemer City Central Elementary held a drive-thru reading night for students and their parents.
Carr Elementary received 241 bottles of hand sanitizer and 41 bottles of antibacterial soap from the Walmart store in Dallas.
Carr Elementary teacher Kaitlin Petruska is a nominee for the UNC-Charlotte Page and Ed Kizer Beginning Teacher Award.
Chapel Grove Baptist Church provided Thanksgiving Day meals for families at Chapel Grove Elementary School.
Catawba Heights Elementary teacher Danna Ritchie is the recipient of a Bright Ideas Education Grant presented by Rutherford Electric.
Forestview High School athletic trainer Jarrett Friday was selected to serve as an athletic trainer for the 2021 Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas football game.
W.C. Friday Middle School collected 2,520 cans of food for charities in Dallas.  In addition, the school’s leadership classes made Christmas cards that were sent to military personnel serving overseas and to residents at Stanley Total Living Center.
Gaston Early College High School student Najira Davis was selected as a Lenoir-Rhyne University Scholar and received a scholarship valued at $98,000 over four years, and Autumn Kirby received a Lenoir-Rhyne Scholars scholarship valued at $66,000.
The Gaston Early College High School Beta Club partnered with Gaston College’s Dallas and Lincoln campuses to conduct a canned food drive.  The students collected 1,611 cans.  All donations were given to the Crisis Assistance Ministry in Gastonia or the college’s food pantry on the Dallas campus.
Gaston Early College High School held a Winter Warmth Drive, and more than 200 coats, hats, gloves, and scarves were donated by students and staff.  The items were donated to “scarf bombing” efforts in Gaston County through the “Chase the Chill Gaston” program.
The Grier Middle School Exceptional Children Department sponsored a canned food drive and collected more than 700 cans to support students and families.
Grier Middle School students, teachers, and staff packed 38 shoeboxes for the Operation Christmas Child program that is sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse.
Food Lion donated 12 frozen turkeys to Grier Middle School for its inaugural Turkey Bowl competition.
Gaston County Virtual Academy teachers Summer Cheek and Katelin Greer collected 1,500 books for distribution to students.
Holbrook Middle School families, staff, and the community contributed food, gifts, and other items to ensure that 36 students are able to enjoy the holiday season.
Hunter Huss High School was featured on the North Carolina Public Schools Facebook page with students performing two dance and percussion ensembles.  Teachers Julie Ballard and Heaven Watson-Weary organized the social media performances.
Hunter Huss High School student-athlete Dontavius Nash signed a letter of intent to play football at UNC-Chapel Hill.  In addition, student-athlete Nick Sharpe signed a national letter of intent to play football at Wake Forest University.
Hunter Huss High School teacher Michelle Ellis was appointed to serve on the Gaston County Quality of Natural Resources Committee.
Hunter Huss High School students Jessica Clark and Cody Wiper earned the State Leader Award during the SkillsUSA Virtual Fall Leadership Development Seminar.
McAdenville Elementary School held a special “lunch and share” event.  Parents parked their car in the school’s parking lot at lunchtime, and students joined their parents in the car to share about what they have learned about being a good reader.
McAdenville Elementary students made holiday ornaments for senior citizens in the community.
McAdenville Elementary was unable to participate in the annual ChristmasTown USA tree lighting ceremony or yule log parade this year.  However, music teacher Dalia Razo choreographed holiday dances for each class to perform.  She recorded the performances and shared them on the school’s Facebook page for the community to enjoy.
McAdenville Wesleyan Church and the Cramer Mountain Investment Club provided Christmas gifts for students at McAdenville Elementary.
Mount Holly Middle School football coach Otis Forsythe’s 12:1-2 Transform Cycling group worked with the school to identify families in need.  Group members provided the families with a turkey for Thanksgiving.
Mount Holly Middle School received $1,856 in donations for the school’s We Care Fund.  The school partnered with Shoe Carnival and purchased 35 $50 gift cards for students in need.  In addition, Shoe Carnival offered to give an additional 30 percent off for the families with the specially-marked gift cards.
Page Primary School collected 745 canned goods and food items for the Belmont Community Organization. In addition, the staff received a delicious lunch from Taxco Mexican Grill.
The Pleasant Ridge Elementary Junior Beta Club made 15 “I Care” packages for the Support our Troops Foundation.  One box was marked for Pleasant Ridge teacher and Gaston County Schools New Teacher of the Year Trevor Dunlap, who is currently training to be a National Guardsman.  The boxes included notes of appreciation from students, hygiene items, canned goods, snacks, and esocks.
Daimler sponsored Thanksgiving Day meals for more than a dozen families at Pinewood Elementary. In addition, Food Lion contributed a voucher for a free turkey.
Robinson Elementary art teacher Fonda Cooper received a $2,500 grant from Pisgah ARP Church.  In addition, music teacher Jonathan Panther received a $500 grant.
Christ Worship Center provided Sadler Elementary students with a bag filled with presents such as hats, gloves, mugs, and candy.
South Point High School was awarded the Wells Fargo Cup for the Southwestern 2A Conference.  The award recognizes the school’s excellence in athletics for 2019-2020.
South Point High School senior Grace Nehring signed a national letter of intent to play lacrosse at Rhodes College.  In addition, senior Trinity Knauf signed a national letter of intent to play soccer at Johnson and Wales University.
Cherryville High School senior Wyatt Wilson hosted several virtual events for Tryon Elementary students. Wyatt dressed as an elf and welcomed students to school.
Tryon Elementary received a $1,000 donation from the Tryon High School Class of 1966.  Donors included Barbara Farnsworth, Beth Rudisill, Linda Hosier, Peggy McNair, Jewell Vincent, Ann Criswell, Linda Lovelace, and Elaine Robinson.
Tryon Elementary students received two new books and a pair of socks through a donation from retired Bessemer City High School teacher Diane Leazer.
Webb Street School collected more than 300 pairs of socks for adults and children.  The school donated the socks to the Catherine Mabry Cloninger Center in Gastonia.
Webb Street School received a donation of $2,900 for landscaping supplies from Lowe’s Home Improvement. Additionally, representatives from Lowe’s Home Improvement, Covenant Case Management, and Webb Street School volunteered more than 180 hours toward outdoor beautification projects at the school.

First Baptist Mt. Holly pipe organ installation...

(January 21, 2021 Issue)

The new pipe organ at First Baptist Mt. Holly arrived just before Christmas and is is nearly ready for action. Many people have had a hand in the design and building of this organ and First Baptist is grateful to all of them. Schantz Organ Company of Orrville, Ohio is the firm that created and installed the organ. Founded in 1873, Schantz Organ Company is North America’s oldest and largest pipe organ builder still under the control of the founding family.
Taylor Vancil photos


Gaston County prepares to expand COVID vaccination efforts

(January 21, 2021 Issue)

Gaston County is  preparing for the change in COVID vaccination requirements rolled out last Thursday by the state.
The state has added in the 65-to-74-year-old population as part of what is now being referred to as Group 2. Gaston County is continuing to register individuals both through its hotline, 704-866-3170, and at Thousands of Gaston County residents have already registered online since that option was launched last Thursday.
County employees will continue to staff the hotline during the week starting at 8 a.m. and will be available each day until 5 p.m. It has pulled employees from departments across the county and is getting additional assistance from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to help manage the historically high call volume.
In response, the County will soon be adding vaccination days on Wednesdays in addition to Fridays as it will soon not only be providing the first shot to hundreds of residents at a time, but also the second round of vaccine to complete the process. The county also opened up another 2,400 vaccination appointments for the next three weeks.
The County is also working closely with its partners at CaroMont Health and Kintegra Health to maximize the opportunities to get members of the community vaccinated.
Those in the 65-74 age range should expect it may take a few weeks to get to their turn in line as the County has booked out appointments with remaining healthcare workers (Group 1) and the 75-and-over population that have pre-registered for appointments.
Vaccination clinics continue to be by appointment only, to manage the flow of traffic and allow for as smooth a process as possible.
Residents are encouraged to sign up for COVID-19 information email alerts at
Solomon Eichner

Sol Eichner, concert pianist, to perform on Arts at the Abbey

(January 21, 2021 Issue)

Arts at the Abbey enters 2021 with a program featuring romantic piano music and jazz-influenced compositions. Entitled a “Rachmaninoff Sandwich”, the program has four of Rachmaninoff’s magnificent preludes interspersed with music by Gershwin, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, and the Russian contemporary composer Kapustin. There are familiar works as well as new ones.
The concert is Monday January 25, 2021 at 8:00 PM in the Abbey Basilica, Belmont Abbey, Belmont NC. Admission is free. A limited live audience will be admitted. Masks and social distancing are required. Donations are welcomed.  The concert will also be live streamed -
To reserve a seat, call 704-461-6012 or email
Solomon Eichner debuted at Carnegie Hall in 2016 after winning the “Golden Key Debut” International Competition in New York City. He has performed in England, Italy, Germany, Austria, Poland and throughout the U.S. Recent performances include the Western Piedmont Symphony and next year (after Covid) he will perform Beethoven with the Winston-Salem Symphony.
Belmont Abbey Basilica, Belmont Abbey College (at Exit 26 on I-85) Belmont NC and are free to the public.  This series is made possible in part by the Associated Foundation, Inc. of Belmont, The Gaston Community Foundations, The Monks of Belmont Abbey and other private donors.
The Abbey Basilica, Belmont Abbey College just off of Exit 26 on I-85.For more information: Karen Hite Jacob. 704-461-6012, or

Cathy Mabry Cloninger Center News

(January 14, 2021 Issue)

The Cathy Mabry Cloninger Center, a domestic violence shelter, 330 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd.,  has the following news briefs.
Shelter Meals
We need your help! We have many available meal dates available over the next couple of months. These meals are so important as they help our families feel less isolated in the shelter. Preparing or purchasing a meal for the shelter helps these families feel more supported on their journey to an abuse-free life. If you or your organization are interested in providing a meal, please contact
Counseling Services
Did you know? The shelter offers free and confidential counseling services to ALL survivors of domestic violence. If you are interested in learning more about these services, please contact Emma Calvert at
Hope United Survivor Network
Hope United Survivor Network is Gaston County’s very own family justice center. They connect ALL survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse and human trafficking to service providers in our community. Check out their Facebook page for more information!
Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. This year we are encouraging the community to learn more about how to protect our children and teach them about healthy relationships. Statistics show that girls between the ages of 16 and 19 experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence, almost triple the national average. We are offering Zoom presentations to parents, teachers, family members and students that will provide information about how to spot the warning signs and resources available to those who are experiencing abuse. For more information about presentations and resources, please contact Mollie Weakland at

Lingerfeldt Elementary School's Teacher Project

(January 14, 2021 Issue)

Lingerfeldt Elementary School’s Teacher Project has been recognizing teachers for their positive contributions to the school. Here are some recent winners.

Gaston Schools photos

Pinewood Elementary School’s Teacher Assistant of the Year, Mrs. Giana McGuire

Congratulations to Pinewood Elementary School’s Teacher Assistant of the Year

(January 14, 2021 Issue)

Congratulations to Pinewood Elementary School’s Teacher Assistant of the Year, Mrs. Giana McGuire. Thank you for serving the exceptional children’s department and  school with positivity and professionalism. Pinewood is thankful for all that she does.
Gaston Schools photos
Pinewood Elementary School’s New Teacher of the Year, Ms. Lexi Crosby

Congratulations to Pinewood Elementary School’s  New Teacher of the Year,

(January 14, 2021 Issue)

Congratulations to Pinewood Elementary School’s  New Teacher of the Year, Ms. Lexi Crosby. This award goes to a faculty member in their first three years of teaching. Ms. Crosby is passionate, engaging, and loved by everyone at our school. She has a natural teaching ability that is beyond her years.

2021 Gaston Together MLK Unity Awards is January 18th

(January 14, 2021 Issue)

The Gaston Clergy & Citizens Coalition (GC3), an initiative of Gaston Together, will present the 2021 Gaston County MLK Unity Awards to Gastonia Police Chief Travis Brittain, Rev. Dr. Rodney Freeman and Shaaron Miller Funderburk on Monday, January 18th at 10:30 am.  Due to the Covid restrictions for North Carolina, the event this year will be livestreamed through Facebook: Mt. Zion Restoration Church.  
The Gaston County MLK Unity Award was established in 2004 by GC3.  The award recognizes current or former Gaston County citizens who have performed exemplary community service to help build bridges of unity across lines of class, race, gender, faith and/or municipalities within our county.  Names of the honorees are engraved on the MLK Monument located at the MLK Plaza in Gastonia.   Some of the past winners include:  Senator Marshall Rauch, the late N. A. Smith, Mrs. Lucy Penegar and Danny Jackson.  Last year’s honorees were Dr. Mark E. Epstein, Walker E. Reid III and John P. Weisenhorn.
Chief Brittain and Rev. Freeman are being honored together due to their work and partnership to promote, facilitate and help to spread community awareness of the GC3/Law Enforcement Covenant originally signed in March 2016.  Both men have done exemplary work individually in building bridges of unity throughout their careers; however, the groundwork these two have laid together while putting the tenets of the covenant into practice has truly made a tremendous positive impact in our community.  They have built a relationship between each other and their respective networks in the law enforcement and African/American communities that kept the worst from happening here in the aftermath of George Floyd and other killings as well as the Confederate Monument protests.  To quote one recommendation for Chief Brittain and Rev. Freeman, “GC3 was entirely prescient in the need (for the covenant).  These two individuals embraced, facilitated, and created out of whole cloth a movement that spared Gastonia the worst that could and might have happened…and lays the foundation for it to continue far into the future, continuing a proud Gastonia tradition of proactively addressing race issues (in the spirit of the Human Relations Commission in the early 1960’s).   I don’t think there can be any more deserving recipients of a Unity Award named after Dr. King.”
Chief Brittain was born and raised in Gastonia and graduated from Ashbrook High School. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Gardner Webb University and a master’s degree in Justice Administration from Methodist University. He is a 2013 graduate of the FBI National Academy’s 254th Session and received the Advanced Law Enforcement Certificate from the State of North Carolina.  Chief Brittain has served the Gastonia Police Department for 25 years, the last six of those in executive management. He assumed his new duties as Chief on October 1, 2020.
Brittain serves on the boards of several community organizations, including the Executive Board of the Gaston Clergy & Citizens Coalition (GC3) and Habitat for Humanity, where he co-planned initiatives to build homes in areas impacted by crime. He is also a member of the Rotary Club of East Gastonia.
Dr. Rodney Freeman is a native of York, South Carolina.  He has an Associate of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Jacksonville Theological Seminary, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Pastoral Studies from Queen City Bible College, a Masters of Divinity Degree from Gardner Webb University  and a Doctorate of Ministry Degree from Ashland Theological Seminary.  Rev. Freeman has been the Pastor of Mt. Zion Restoration Church in Gastonia since 2000.  He is the first African American appointed President of the York Rotary Club, York, SC and is the founder and CEO of Save Our Children Youth Academy as well as Bountiful Blessings Food Pantry both of which are in Gastonia.
Shaaron Funderburk is well known in Gaston County for her work with the Off the Streets Program, Inc., a program designed to assist women in getting off the streets and becoming free from street life, drugs, and alcohol. Tough love and strong leadership by Mrs. Funderburk, CEO and founder, have resulted in rehabilitation with many of these women re-entering the work force and life as capable, responsible, and constructive members of society.  Shaaron knows first-hand what it is like to wake up and not know what has happened in your life for a period of time because you were “cracked” out of your mind and your best friend is a crack pipe. Shaaron took a good look at herself and realized that she had hit bottom, she said, “This is it. I have had enough, and I cannot go on living this way.”  Not only did she change, now she helps others to change.  Over the past 17 years, Shaaron has helped rehabilitate more than 1,000 women with a 90 percent success rate. She attributes this to knowing what it is like to be in their shoes which helps her motivate them to turn their lives around.  Mrs. Funderburk is a Hunter Huss graduate and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Johnson C. Smith University.
The presentation of the awards will be part of an annual event designed by the GC3 to recognize the dream of Dr. King for all.  It is a dream very much alive in Gaston County.  Please join the celebration as we honor those in our midst who have worked to build bridges of unity in our county.
The GC3 is a county-wide, non-denominational ministerial association formed in the late 1990’s by Gaston Together.  The GC3 meets on the second Thursday of each month at 9:00am.  Due to Covid restrictions, meetings are currently conducted by virtual format.  For more information, please call Gaston Together (704-867-9869.)

Gaston Day School student publication is finalist for prestigious award

(January 7, 2021 Issue)

Congratulations to the Gaston Day School 2019-2020 Blutopia staff. The Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) has honored the 2020 issue of Blutopia as a finalist for their Crown Award. Crown Awards are the highest recognition given by the CSPA to a student print or digital medium for overall excellence.
A total of 849 digital, newspapers, magazines and yearbooks published during the 2019-2020 academic year were eligible for judging in the 2021 Crown Awards Program. Blutopia is in the high school print literary magazine category and is one of only two magazines in North Carolina selected. Finalists will be revealed as either Gold or Silver Crowns in March 2021.
Lily McGrath’ 20 was also awarded a Gold Circle Certificate of Merit for her print spread “Away”, featuring poetry by Matilda Ziegler’ 23 and art by David Efird’ 20.
Blutopia is Gaston Day School’s student published literary and arts magazine.
Founded in 1925, the Columbia Scholastic Press Association unites student editors and faculty advisers working with them who produce student newspapers, magazines, yearbooks and online media. The Association is owned and operated by Columbia University.

South Point High awarded Wells Fargo Cup

(January 7, 2021 Issue)

By Charlotte Sautner

South Point High School has been awarded the Well Fargo Cup for the Southwestern 2A Conference for 2019-2020.  This is the second time in three years that South Point has been awarded this honor.  As you know our Spring seasons were cut short because of COVID-19, but South Point was leading the conference in points coming out of the Winter sports season.
South Point Athletic Director, Kent Hyde, said “This is a total team effort- our athletes, our coaches, our faculty, our support staff, our administrators, and our community.  Thank you for all that you do for South Point High School and our community. Go Big Red!!”
The Wells Fargo Cup represents overall sports excellence among high schools in North Carolina.  The award goes to the schools which have the best overall interscholastic sports programs in each athletic conference.  The program is sponsored by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association and one of its corporate sponsors, Wells Fargo.
Sports teams playing during the fall and winter of 2019-2020 were Men’s and Women’s Cross Country, Football, Men’s Soccer, Women’s Tennis, Women’s Volleyball, Men’s and Women’s Basketball, Men’s and Women’s Swimming, and Wrestling.  South Point won championships in Men’s Cross Country, Women’s Tennis, and Men’s and Women’s Swimming.

Students give generously...

(January 7, 2021 Issue)

Mrs. Miller’s sweet class at Gaston Christian School raised $240.44 for the Charlotte Rescue Mission. This money provided over 100 meals for those in need. What a blessing it was to see a spirit of generosity in that classroom.

Teacher of the Year finalists announced

(January 7, 2021 Issue)

Congratulations to the following educators who were chosen as finalists for Gaston County Teacher of the Year, 2021-2022. Savanna Abernathy, Bessemer City Central Elementary; Natalie Childers, Gardner Park Elementary; Bethany Hartley, Hunter Huss High School; Casey Miller, Stanley Middle School; Staci Nezezon, Pinewood Elementary.   Gaston Schools photos
Allison Gozalkowski

Congratulations Allison!

(January 7, 2021 Issue)

Congratulations to Grier Middle School sixth-grader Allison Gozalkowski. She won this great new bike in the raffle held at the school.
Mr. Prieto

Holbrook Middle School’s Teacher of the Year 2020-2021

(January 7, 2021 Issue)

Congratulations to Mr. Prieto for being voted as Holbrook Middle School’s Teacher of the Year 2020-2021. Way to go Mr. Prieto.
Mrs. Jenny Lawrence pictured with her husband,Alex and son William.

Ida Rankin Elementary’s 2020-21 Teacher Assistant of the Year

(January 7, 2021 Issue)

Congratulations to Mt. Holly Ida Rankin Elementary’s 2020-21 Teacher Assistant of the Year, Mrs. Jenny Lawrence. Thanks to her husband, Alex and son, William for helping the school celebrate and honor her.
Mrs. Marlowe

Catawba Heights Elementary School’s  Teacher Assistant of the Year

(January 7, 2021 Issue)

Congratulations to Catawba Heights Elementary School’s  Teacher Assistant of the Year Mrs. Marlowe. She is always willing to step in and help out wherever she’s needed, Mrs. Marlowe is an integral part of the school and is loved by everyone.

Carr Elementary School “Ugly Mask” contest winners

(January 7, 2021 Issue)

Carr Elementary School in Dallas held a holiday “Ugly Mask” contest. These teachers went all out to craft their most imaginative masks and won some great prizes for their efforts.

Gaston County Public Health
announces pre-registration details for Covid-19 vaccination clinics

(January 7, 2021 Issue)

Gaston County’s Public Health Department released additional details and resources for the public in regards to its upcoming COVID-19 vaccination clinic, scheduled for this Friday, Jan. 8, at the Gastonia Farmer’s Market.
Friday’s clinic is open to residents 75 years or older, as part of category 1B. It is also open to any individual in group 1A that has not received yet received a vaccine. Pre-registration is required so the county can have the correct amount of vaccine available to meet the needs of those attending the clinic. 1A includes frontline health care workers and first responders who have direct contact with individuals who are potentially COVID-positive, as well as long-term care facility residents and staff.
The County has set up a hotline for residents to call to begin the pre-registration process for the vaccination clinic. That number is 704-866-3170. County employees will staff the hotline beginning Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. and will be available each day until 5 p.m.
If all operators are busy, residents can leave a voicemail, and a county staffer will return their call to begin the registration process.
Gaston County plans to continue hosting vaccination clinics each Friday at the Gastonia Farmer’s Market as doses are made available. All future dates will be listed at as they are confirmed.
Gaston County’s Health Department worked with GEMS and its Office of Emergency Management and Fire Services in identifying the Gastonia Farmer’s Market as an ideal location to host the vaccine clinics, as it is on local bus routes, is centrally located in the county and provides protection from the elements for workers who will be servicing the drive-thru clinic.
Frontline essential workers are also a part of the 1B distribution, but are slated to be vaccinated as part of group 2, after residents who are 75 years and older, as there is not enough vaccine currently available to handle this entire group at once. The CDC defines frontline essential workers as first responders (e.g., firefighters and police officers), corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and those who work in the education sector (teachers and support staff members) as well as child care workers.
Those frontline essential workers who are 50 and over will be offered the vaccine first, followed by those frontline workers of any age as part of group 3 in the 1B classification. will contain updates on where Gaston County stands on the vaccination group schedule.
Montcross Chamber photo

Fish Geeks open in Belmont

(January 7, 2021 Issue)

Congratulations to Fish Geeks The Local Fish Store, 26 N. Main St., on its recent grand opening weekend in downtown Belmont. The Montcross Area Chamber, Mayor Charlie Martin,City Council Members Jim Hefferan and Marc Seelinger and the community attended and enjoyed the event.

Dr. Jill Payne, principal of Hawks Nest STEAM Academy, shows off the North Carolina STEM School of Distinction award.

Hawks Nest earns N.C. STEM School of Distinction title

Hawks Nest STEAM Academy is recognized across Gaston County for its focus on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.  Now, Hawks Nest has gained attention at the state level for earning the North Carolina STEM School of Distinction title. 
The Department of Public Instruction and State Board of Education began recognizing schools in 2014 for outstanding efforts in STEM education.  Hawks Nest is one of only 16 schools statewide to earn the STEM model school designation, and it is the only model school winner for 2020.
The award recognizes Hawks Nest for its concentrated emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics across the curriculum, according to Dr. Jill Payne, principal.
Hawks Nest STEAM Academy opened in August 2016 as the only elementary magnet school in Gaston County with a focus on STEAM.  Becoming a model school was on the radar from the beginning. 
“We started the process four years ago by looking at the STEM rubric and using the information to create the foundation for our school,” she said, adding that it takes most schools a number of years to prepare for the application process.  “It’s been a group effort since we started the process.  Our staff chartered our course from day one.  They sat down and created a plan, and we have worked together to make it happen.”
STEM Schools of Distinction are recognized by the Department of Public Instruction for exemplifying outstanding leadership and challenging students to think creatively.  With a focus on teamwork, teachers and staff help students develop the ability to reason and embrace essential STEM attributes they need to be successful in today’s society.
“One of our main goals is to make sure our school is a place where students thrive.  They’re growing academically because of our efforts to take a whole-school approach to the STEM curriculum and also integrating the arts,” she said.  
Of the schools that applied, Hawks Nest was selected as one of the top 36, which led to a follow-up visit to further explore the school’s qualifications.  The follow-up was done virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.  While it usually takes 24 hours to find out the results, Hawks Nest received confirmation only three hours after its presentation.
“It’s been very exciting,” Payne said of the process.  “There are so many good things going on here at Hawks Nest, and I’m so proud of the work that is being done.”
Payne says even more important than the recognition is seeing her students grow in their love for learning.
“To watch our students accomplish the things they can do, it is amazing,” she said. “To see them connect with something they love and something they might want to do when they’re older, that has been very powerful to experience.”
Karen Duncan

IT specialist develops Gaston College course that receives Quality Matters Certification

(December 31, 2020 Issue)

The Professional Development course at Gaston College has received certification from Quality Matters, the global organization that leads quality assurance in online and innovative digital teaching and learning environments. The course teaches realistic career-building skills and motivates students toward improving both personal and professional performance. The QM Certification Mark is the internationally recognized symbol of online and blended course design quality.
 Professional Development is included in the curriculum for the Office Systems Technology program at Gaston College and is an elective for other programs, such as Accounting, Business Administration, Criminal Justice, and Paralegal Technology. It is the first course that Gaston College has submitted for Quality Matters Certification and it earned the certification after a rigorous review process which provided validation of its quality, learner-focused design.
 Karen Duncan, Instructional Technology Specialist and Accessibility Liaison for all eLearning content, developed the course. To be certified, a course must meet the 42 Standards and 23 Essential Standards in the Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric. A score of 85 percent is required for certification, but the Professional Development course scored 100 percent. Prior to submitting the course for certification, Duncan completed several professional development programs through Quality Matters to learn what would be required for a course to meet the Standards. Those courses included Quality Matters Coordinator Training, Design That Welcomes Your Learners, Improving Your Online Course, Apply the Quality Matters Rubric, and Designing Your Online Course. She also took their Peer Reviewer Certification course so that she can participate in the process to review courses that others may submit to QM for certification.
 Duncan has worked at Gaston College since 1999 and has served as faculty and department chair of Office Systems Technology and Business Administration. She earned her master’s in Educational Media and Instructional Technology from Appalachian State University and holds certificates in Information Accessibility Design and Policy from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and in Advanced Technologies in Distance Education from the University of West Georgia.
 Duncan is responsible for the effective integration of technology into the online instructional areas of Gaston College, including both curriculum and continuing education. In that capacity, she fosters effective teaching and learning in the areas of distance learning and instructional technology, recommends new instructional delivery systems and hardware and software applications, and identifies the training needs and provide appropriate development opportunities for faculty in the application of technology in instruction, among other responsibilities. She also teaches Office Technology Systems curriculum courses to Gaston College students.

Takasha Morrow -   Carr Elementary 

Carr Elementary fourth grade teacher Takasha Morrow was the recipient of 100 books through the  Charlotte Hornets “Pick and Read” literacy program. The program features an author reading and discussing his or her book with students in a virtual setting. Mrs. Morrow was selected as the October winner from over 50 teachers who participated in the webinar.

Board of Education elects chairman and vice chairman

The Gaston County Board of Education conducted its organizational meeting on Monday, December 7 to select a chairman and vice chairman to serve for the next two years.
At-large member Jeff Ramsey was elected by the Board to serve as chairman, and at-large member Dot Cherry was elected to serve as vice chairman.
The organizational meeting took place following the induction ceremony for elected officials.
During the 9:00 a.m. induction ceremony at the Gaston County Schools Central Office, Dot Guthrie, Robbie Lovelace, Brent Moore, and Jeff Ramsey were sworn in to serve on the Board of Education.  The Honorable David A. Phillips, superior court judge, presided and administered the oath of office.
Guthrie, Moore, and Ramsey were reelected to the Board during the November 3 general election.  Lovelace was elected to the Board for the first time.  They will serve four-year terms.
The first regular meeting for the newly-organized Board of Education is scheduled for Monday, December 21 at 5:30 p.m. at the Gaston County Schools Central Office.  The meeting will air live on Spectrum Channel 21 and the Gaston County Board of Education YouTube channel.

Gaston County Board of Education
Jeff Ramsey, At-Large Member, Chairman
Dot Cherry, At-Large Member, Vice Chairman
Kevin Collier, Riverbend Township
Justin Davis, South Point Township
Lee Dedmon, Gastonia Township
Dot Guthrie, Gastonia Township
Steve Hall, Dallas Township
Robbie Lovelace, Cherryville Township
Brent Moore, Crowders Mountain Township

Holy Angels Luminary Display

Holy Angels, 6600 Wilkinson Blvd., will invite the people being honored or the families of loved ones being memorialized to its first luminary display, Celebrate Joy, Celebrate Life: Share the Light!. These luminaries, angels and signs will be placed throughout the Holy Angels campus. The public is invited on December 20th  6-8pm to drive through campus and listen to the story of Holy Angels along with some Christmas music while experiencing this powerful light exhibit. With other Christmas events being canceled or minimalized this season, this is a chance to make family memories from the safe distance of your own car.      Photos by Shawn Flynn
Jasmine Cox will serve a three-year term as a Director on the advisory board for the Advanced Textiles Products division of Industrial Fabrics Association International. She is a Process Coordinator for Testing and has worked for the Textile Technology Center of Gaston College since 2015.

Gaston College Textile Technology Center employee will serve on textile division advisory board

(December 3, 2020 Issue)

Jasmine Cox, Process Coordinator for Testing at the Gaston College Textile Technology Center in Belmont has been selected to serve a three-year term as a Director on the Advisory Board for the Advanced Textiles Products division of Industrial Fabrics Association International. IFAI is a not-for-profit trade association comprising member companies representing the international specialty fabrics marketplace.
Cox earned her bachelor’s degree in textile technology from NC State in 2013. She was pursuing her master’s degree in engineering management at UNC-Charlotte when, while driving on I-85, she spotted a sign for the Textile Technology Center. She contacted the Center and was invited by Sam Buff, Director of the TTC, to tour the facility. That tour resulted in the offer of an internship. In 2015, Cox joined the Textile Technology Center as an intern working part-time as a testing technician in the Physical Testing laboratory.
Cox was surprised and honored to learn of her appointment to the advisory board. The IFAI is the largest, most comprehensive textile trade association and its ATP division supports the safety/protective, interactive, medical, performance wear/sports, and technical textiles industries. The Textile Technology Center is actively engaged in research and development in those areas.
“As a member of the IFAI Advanced Textiles Products Advisory Board, I hope to continue to make people aware of the various innovations and opportunities that exist within the different divisions of the textile industry,” said Cox. “As an advisory board member, I hope to help grow the IFAI membership and programs and to expand the organization’s visibility.”
Working at the TTC solidified Cox’s interest and passion to continue her career in the textile industry. She will receive her Master of Textiles from Wilson College of Textiles at NC State in December 2020 and obtaining her Ph.D. in Textile Management is on her short-term goal list.
Congratulations to Jesse Birnstihl, English teacher, at Ashbrook High School, for receiving the North Carolina English Teachers Association Outstanding Teacher of the Year award. Birnstihl was nominated by principal Rebecca Wilson for seeing students as individuals and caring about each one despite their social acceptance, family structure, or future plans. “Mr. Birnstihl is one of the most hardworking educators I know. He works tirelessly to prepare interactive lessons that challenge his students and make them better students as well as better citizens. In addition, he is a sponsor for the school’s Slam Poetry Club, which allows students to express themselves through the art of poetry.” Gaston Schools photo

Gaston County Schools Good News - November 2020

(December 3, 2020 Issue)

The following “good news” was presented to the Gaston County Board of Education for the month of November 2020:
Students from H.H. Beam Elementary, Belmont Central Elementary, Belmont Middle, Cramerton Middle, East Gaston High School, North Gaston High School, Pinewood Elementary, Pleasant Ridge Elementary, and Rankin Elementary participated in the Mount Holly Lantern Parade, which was held in a reverse format this year because of the pandemic.  Students displayed their own handmade lanterns alongside other lanterns that complemented the “Our Greatest Show on Earth” theme.
The Cramerton Community Committee provided a total of 1,580 cloth masks to the following schools: Page Primary; McAdenville Elementary; New Hope Elementary; and Belmont Central Elementary.
Dr. Cristi Bostic, executive director of secondary instruction, and Dr. Derrick Jackson, executive director of elementary instruction, completed the Aspiring Superintendents Program, which is sponsored by the North Carolina School Superintendents Association.
The following school cafeterias received a 100 percent sanitation grade: H.H. Beam Elementary, W.B. Beam Intermediate, Belmont Central Elementary, Bessemer City Primary, John Chavis Middle, Cherryville High School, Cherryville Elementary, Kiser Elementary, Lowell Elementary, McAdenville Elementary, Page Primary, Springfield Elementary, and Woodhill Elementary.
Ashbrook High School teacher Jesse Birnstihl was selected as the North Carolina English Teachers Association’s Outstanding English Teacher of the Year.
Ashbrook High School student Devan Gilmore conducted a community service project and collected 25 coats for students at Woodhill Elementary.
The following students were chosen as the “Do the Right Thing” award winners for October: Cain Beheler, Sherwood Elementary; Hector Mendez Hernandez, W.C. Friday Middle; and Ben Hayes, Cherryville High School.
W.B. Beam Intermediate received a $1,000 donation from the Don and Carla Beam Family Foundation to purchase extra medical and health supplies.
Belmont Middle School counselor Dr. Ami Parker, who serves as president of the North Carolina School Counselor Association, was invited to serve as an adviser for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s bullying campaign.
The Belmont Middle School staff was treated to a delicious lunch sponsored by Ranucci’s Food Truck, Blake Construction, and Sundrop.
Bessemer City High School teacher Jason Crawford received a $2,000 grant from Pisgah Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church to purchase a software program for his class.
Students at Brookside Elementary and Robinson Elementary had the opportunity to observe and learn about the different parts of a helicopter.  Gaston County police officer Danny Hubbard coordinated the program.
Brookside Elementary received a North Carolina flag from N.C. Representative John Torbett.
Carr Elementary kindergarten teacher Ashley Loftis was selected as a James Patterson and Scholastic Books Club Partnership grant winner.  She received $500 and 10,500 bonus points to purchase STEM items for her classroom.  In addition, fourth grade teacher TaKasha Morrow won 100 books from the Charlotte Hornets’ Pick and Read webinar.
Carr Elementary kindergarten students were able to enjoy a pumpkin patch at school.  The Town of Dallas and the Dallas Police Department donated 100 pumpkins and Walmart in Dallas provided eight large pumpkins for the classrooms.  Dr. Rebekah Duncan, principal, read the book “Pumpkin, Pumpkin” to the students, who were able to pick out their own pumpkin.
Cherryville High School students Landrie Wofford and Ben Hayes worked together to sponsor “Kindness Week” activities.  Students dressed in orange to make a statement about bullying and wore hats as a fundraiser.  Additionally, the students put inspiring messages in various locations around the school, painted a mural, and placed “Spread Kindness Not Germs” banners at the school entrances.
The Stuart W. Cramer High School Stagestruck Players presented “A Cemetery Walk Through Time” at New Hope Presbyterian Church in Gastonia.  Students gave tours through the cemetery and introduced tour participants to people from the past.  The event served as a fundraiser for the school’s theater arts program.
The Stuart W. Cramer High School counseling department participated in New York Life Insurance’s Grief Sensitive Schools Initiative and was awarded a $500 grant for making the school a grief sensitive educational facility.  Additionally, teachers received professional training and resources to help students when they are grieving.
Walmart in Dallas provided W.C. Friday Middle School with funds for the school’s “Leader in Me Seven Habits” pumpkin decorating contest.  Students selected one of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as a theme for decorating their classroom’s pumpkin.  The best-decorated pumpkins received prizes and the top class received the school spirit stick.
The Gaston County Virtual Academy held a drive-through event for K-5 students and teachers to pick up t-shirts, books, cupcakes, and other items.
Highland School of Technology senior Ann Russell is this year’s winner of the DAR Good Citizen Essay Contest, which is sponsored by the Major William Chronicle Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Highland School of Technology teachers Jennifer Ackerman, Maddie Boyles, Star Edwards, Jennifer Gallagher, Laura Long, Kenneth Pasour, and Matt Renegar received education grants from Pisgah Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gastonia.
Lingerfeldt Elementary conducted a school beautification day with help from members of First ARP Church in Gastonia.  Volunteers cut down several trees and bushes around the school and put down pine straw.  In addition, Home Depot donated 15 bags of mulch.
The Rankin Elementary PTA purchased a new stage curtain for the school.
Warlick Academy counselor Grant Sparks presented a conference workshop titled “It Takes More than Guidance” for the North Carolina School Counselor Association.  Additionally, Hunter Huss High School counselor Heather Griffin presented a workshop titled “Leaving Guidance Behind: The New Frontier of School Counseling.”


(December 3, 2020 Issue)

Congratulations to Paramedic Cameron Keller, EMT Bridget Wilkinson, and Act. Lieutenant Tia Slone for an outstanding job at successfully resuscitating a patient in traumatic cardiac arrest. Pictured above, these excellent clinicians are holding their Trauma Save challenge coins to honor their achievement. Well done! 

GEMS photos

NC tightens existing mask requirements and enforcement

(December 3, 2020 Issue)

Last week, NC Governor Roy Cooper issued additional COVID-19 safety measures to tighten mask requirements and enforcement as cases continue to rise rapidly in North Carolina and across the country. Executive Order No. 180 went into effect on Wednesday, November 25 and runs through Friday, December 11.
“I have a stark warning for North Carolinians: We are in danger,” Governor Cooper said. “This is a pivotal moment in our fight against the coronavirus. Our actions now will determine the fate of many.”
In addition to extending Phase 3 capacity limits and safety requirements, the Order tightens the existing statewide mask requirement – making it clear that everyone needs to wear a mask whenever they are with someone who is not from the same household. The Order also adds the mask requirement to several additional settings including any public indoor space even when maintaining 6 feet of distance; gyms even when exercising; all schools public and private; and all public or private transportation when travelling with people outside of the household.
The Order also requires large retail businesses with more than 15,000 square feet to have an employee stationed near entrances ensuring mask wearing and implementing occupancy limits for patrons who enter.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, updated North Carolina’s COVID-19 County Alert System map due to the rapid rise in cases and hospitalization over the past week. Since introducing the system last week, ten more counties have moved into the red category indicating critical community spread. There are now 20 red counties and 42 orange counties. Gaston County is red.
“The coming weeks will be a true test of our resolve to do what it takes to keep people from getting sick, to save lives, and to make sure that if you need hospital care whether it’s for a heart attack or a car accident or COVID-19, you can get it,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D.
 also provided an update on North Carolina’s data and trends.
Trajectory in COVID-Like Illness (CLI) Surveillance Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s syndromic surveillance trend for COVID-like illness is increasing.
Trajectory of Confirmed Cases Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s trajectory of cases is increasing.
Trajectory in Percent of Tests Returning Positive Over 14 Days- North Carolina’s trajectory in percent of tests returning positive is increasing slightly.
Trajectory in Hospitalizations Over 14 Days-North Carolina’s trajectory of hospitalizations is increasing.
In addition to these metrics, the state continues building capacity to adequately respond to an increase in virus spread in testing, tracing and prevention.
Testing- Testing capacity is high.
Tracing Capability- The state is continuing to hire contact tracers to bolster the efforts of local health departments.
Personal Protective Equipment- North Carolina’s personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies are stable.
Bob Sweeten, Holly Wright Maurer, Karen Hite Jacob, Rebecca Miller Saunders, Eddie Ferrell. John Jacob, photographer

Carolina Pro Musica presents
an 18th-century Christmas

(December 3, 2020 Issue)

Carolina Pro Musica continues Season 43 with their annual holiday concert on December 19, 2020 at 7:00 PM. A variation on a Lessons and Carol Service, the ensemble invites the audience to participate on several familiar selections. The rest of the program features works by Bach, Crüger, Maria Peruchona, and Michel Corrette.
No program would be complete without chant so we begin with the familiar “Veni, Emanuel”, an Advent hymn known to most as “O come, O Come Emmanuel. Other familiar works include “Sleeper’s Wake”, “Good Christian Men, rejoice and “O come all ye Faithful.” Selections from Bach’s Magnificat and Franz Gruber’s “Silent Night” with the original accompaniment by guitar offer familiar music. A Christmas motet “Ad Gaudia” by Maria Peruchona, an Ursuline nun from northern Italy, adds a bit of unknown lovely music to the season.
The story of Christ including prophecy, birth, visits by the shepherds and kings and the incarnation are told by Bob Sweeten, actor and longtime radio personality on the Bob & Sheri syndicated morning show that originates in Charlotte. Sweeten makes his 12th appearance with Carolina Pro Musica.  Readings are scripture and poetry. Carolina Pro Musica appears in period attire and performs on period instruments.
Due to Covid-19 this concert will be prerecorded at Belmont Abbey Basilica and premier on Carolina Pro Musica’s YouTube channel at the time of the concert.
Online viewers are asked to support the production through contributions by mail, through or on Facebook.
Carolina Pro Musica
 Karen Hite Jacob, director, harpsichord, chamber organ, Rebecca Miller Saunders, soprano
 Holly Wright Maurer, recorder, viola da gamba, Edward Ferrell, recorders, traverso, guitar
Carolina Pro Musica was founded in 1977 to perform “Early music” – using period instruments and voice in the styles of the musical periods in which it was written.

Attention college students! 

(December 3, 2020 Issue)

The Gaston County Museum is looking for spring interns to work in its Curatorial Department. This is a great opportunity to work with a team of museum professionals on exhibit planning and installation. For more information on applying, visit under JOIN, or contact our Curator at   Gaston County photo
Susan McDonald

GCPL welcomes new Library Director

(December 3, 2020 Issue)

By Dandria Bradley

Gaston County has named the new director for the public library. Susan McDonald started on Monday, October 19 and received a warm   reception from library staff members. Susan previously worked at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in various capacities. In her more than 18 years with the   library system, she has served as a Reference Librarian and Associate Director.
During her time there, she co-developed and led their internal Leadership Development       Program, and was a leader of the WorkSmart Initiative that won the Urban Libraries Council award for innovative practices in libraries.
Susan graduated from Appalachian State University with a B.S. in   Recreation and Leisure Management and received her MLIS from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Susan was born and raised in North Carolina and has lived in all parts of the state except the coast.
While in graduate school, she worked in the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University, where she stayed for seven years before moving to Charlotte and working at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. Susan is excited to be with GCPL.
“I am passionate about providing excellent customer   service to patrons and staff.     Developing staff strengths, discovering unmet community needs, and using innovative thinking to enhance both is the fuel that keeps me energized. I am privileged and excited to     collaborate with all the communities in Gaston County to show how the Library can make a positive impact and become an essential resource within each community,” she said.
After leaving Charlotte, Susan moved to Gastonia with her spouse and youngest son. Her three adult children still live in Charlotte.

County launches new way to pay tax bills during COVID-19

(December 3, 2020 Issue)

The Gaston County tax department is offering residents a new and hassle-free way to pay their tax bills. During the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, this offers an option that does not require leaving your vehicle to make your payment.
The county is leasing an old bank branch, located at 405 N. Chester St., in Gastonia, and set up services to do drive-through tax bill payments for residents who wish to pay in person by cash or check. This eliminates the need for face-to-face contact, making this payment method a safer and contact-less option for citizens and county employees alike.
It will operate Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Non-cash payments may also be made by utilizing drop boxes at the tax office, located at the Gaston County Administration Office, 128 W. Main Ave., in Gastonia. The drop boxes are located on each side of the rear entrance doors of the building.
Residents can also mail their payments to the Gaston County Tax Department, P.O. Box 1578, Gastonia, NC, 28053. Additionally, online credit card payments are accepted at or can be made over the phone by calling 1-855-976-3866.

Community Relief Organization fundraiser

(December 3, 2020 Issue)

For over 20 years, Mount Holly has rung in their holiday season with many traditions, such as the Christmas Parade and the Mount Holly CRO Community Concert. Due to COVID-19, the city is unable to hold these events.
In past years, Mount Holly CRO has raised up to $10,000 to help with their mission of “Neighbors Helping Neighbors”. After successfully moving their annual “Music to Fight Hunger” fundraiser to a virtual format (raising over three times their original goal),the leadership of the Community Relief Organization partnered with Mount Holly First United Methodist Church, who typically hosts the community concert, to produce a Christmas special that will be online-only. They hope to raise $10,000 to fight hunger in the Mount Holly area in this one-night event on December 5th at 7:00 PM.
Members of the community have stepped up to help host and perform in the program. If you tune into the event, you will find civic leaders, radio and TV personalities, local pastors, praise bands, and choirs all spreading the cheer of Christmas and supporting the CRO’s mission.
Performers in the event include: Finish Line Christian Center, First Presbyterian Church of Mt. Holly, For the Love of Technology, The Heights (Catawba Heights Baptist Church), Mt. Holly Fire Department, Mt. Holly First United Methodist Church, Mt. Holly Police Department, The Pointe Church, Queen of the Apostles Catholic Church, Rhythm Church, The Summit Beer Shop, The Vintage Nest, Wesley Chapel Holiness Church, Mayor Bryan Hough, Garrie Brinkley, Bobby Black, Jim Huggins, L. Reeves McGlohon, and Ramona Holloway.
In addition to the Virtual event, the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Youth Group of Mount Holly First United Methodist Church have distributed flyers to many of the neighborhoods of Mount Holly and will be collecting food on the day of the event. This event will be hosted online via Facebook Live on the Mount Holly CRO facebook page as well as on the event’s website,
For more information about this event, visit

Park Street Methodist Church to host Bluegrass on the Lawn with Trinity River Band

(November 19, 2020 Issue)

Park Street Methodist Church, 120 Park Street,  Belmont, will host  Bluegrass on the Lawn with Trinity River Band, Sunday November 22nd at 6:00pm. Please bring your own lawn chair. Donations will be taken for the band. Question/Info, please call the church office at 704-825-8480.

Gaston Day students decorate picnic tables

(November 12, 2020 Issue)

Gaston Day School eighth grade art students worked on a project to turn  picnic tables into functional art.
Because students are spending more time in outdoor spaces,  eighth grade parents donated twelve tables for the GDS community to use.
The students created their own designs with a partner, and  incorporated an element from the “portrait of a graduate” into their designs.
Portrait of a Graduate : Gaston Day School Spartans pursue scholarship and knowledge as a means to…create solutions, collaborate, and drive innovation within their world, discover their unique talents and ignite their passions, embrace their humanity and diversity, approach opportunities and challenges with self-motivation and resilience, achieve a life of curiosity, balance, and purpose.
These tables have added a lot of color and energy to the GDS Campus. Good job Eighth Grade!
Elks Lodge President Joe Heavner presented a check to Meals on Wheels Director Selina Pate.

Gaston’s Meals on Wheels
receives grant from Elks Lodge

(November 12, 2020 Issue)

The Meals on Wheels-Gaston program announced  that it received a grant from the Gastonia Elks Lodge #1634 through funding from the Elks National Foundation.
Annually, the Gastonia Elks Lodge gives grant funding to four different organizations in the community. This year, the Meals on Wheels-Gaston program received the Gratitude Grant for $2,500. Elks Lodge President Joe Heavner presented the check to Meals on Wheels Director Selina Pate. Also in attendance for the presentation were Tom Brooks, Elks Lodge Grant Coordinator, Elks Lodge members Beth Lattimore and Joel Phillips, and Meals on Wheels-Gaston staff members, Maren Brown and Amanda Dawson.
The Meals on Wheels-Gaston program ensures that seniors have access to nutritious food, as many of them lack the family support, mobility, or resources to provide this necessity on their own. The program also makes it possible for seniors, who are often alone, to receive a friendly visit each day from a volunteer. Along with that visit, volunteers perform a safety check with each meal delivery. In case of an emergency or problem, the volunteers can call for medical assistance, as well as notify family members.
For those seniors who have mobility, Meals on Wheels serves meals at six sites throughout Gaston County: Belmont, Bessemer City, Cherryville, Dallas, Gastonia, and Mount Holly. If you would like more information about the Meals on Wheels-Gaston program, please call 704-862-7540.
City of Lowell photo

Lowell Police Department 2nd Annual Food Drive

(November 12, 2020 Issue)

The Lowell Police Department is happy to announce its second annual food drive. The food drive started November 1st, 2020 and ends December 15th, 2020. You can drop off food and non-perishable items anytime at the Lowell Police Department. If there is no one at the office at the time, you can leave it in the lobby. All foods collected will go to a local food bank in Lowell. 
Gaston Schools photo

Pumpkins for Carr Elementary

(November 12, 2020 Issue)

Thanks to the Town of Dallas, the Dallas Police, Chief Walls, and the Dallas Walmart for providing the pumpkins for the Carr Elementary Kindergarten Pumpkin Patch. Usually, Carr kindergarten students have their first school field trip to the pumpkin patch, but that was not possible this year.  Dr. Duncan read Pumpkin, Pumpkin and each student picked a pumpkin. The students were so excited. Thanks to everyone who made this happen. 

Marie Beard

Keeping a positive attitude is on the menu for cafeteria manager Marie Beard

Marie Beard encourages students to always keep a positive attitude no matter what challenges arise.  It’s advice that the cafeteria manager at Forestview High School knows well.
Beard, who is serving in her 17th year as a cafeteria manager in Gaston County Schools, began her school nutrition career when her husband was diagnosed with cancer.  Working in school cafeterias, she was able to have a job and still care for her family.
Beard is familiar with the ins and outs of running a school cafeteria.  Graduating from Ashbrook High School in 1981, she worked at Hunter Huss High School as a cafeteria assistant.  She also has served as the cafeteria manager at North Belmont Elementary, Page Primary, and Hawks Nest STEAM Academy.
While her day-to-day duties vary from preparing meals to delegating assignments and monitoring food safety, Beard says her favorite part of working in the cafeteria is getting to see the students.
“It is a pleasure to serve meals for our students,” she said. “I love getting to interact with them and to watch them grow each and every day.”
It’s a trait that Forestview principal Crystal Houser says makes Beard stand out.
“Marie truly cares about our students at Forestview High School,” she said. “She and her staff work tirelessly to ensure our students’ nutritional needs are addressed, and she goes above and beyond every day for our school.  Best of all, she always has a good attitude and keeps a positive outlook.”
Houser said staying positive is important during challenging times such as the coronavirus pandemic.  She has watched Beard and her staff make adjustments to their daily routine – changes that have been necessary in an effort to always do what is best for students. 
All cafeterias in Gaston County Schools have a sanitation rating of at least 98 percent, giving them an A+ grade for making sure that meals are prepared in a healthy and safe environment.  Beard takes particular pride in the 99-point score at Forestview High School, knowing that she and her colleagues are looking out for the students and staff while preparing breakfasts and lunches.  It’s a responsibility she doesn’t take lightly.
Having served 25 years in local government and state jobs – Beard previously worked for the Gastonia Police Department for more than seven years as a telecommunications supervisor – she knows the importance of making a difference in the world around you.
Beard is grateful that she gets to make a difference while managing the cafeteria at Forestview High School.  And as for her favorite meal?  That’s an easy one.
“The oven-roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans,” she says with a smile.
Najira Davis

Davis is Gaston College SGA President for 2020-2021

 Najira A. Davis is the current president of the Gaston College Student Government Association. She began her term in office in August 2020. Davis has attended Gaston College since 2016, her freshman year at Gaston Early College High School. The GECHS program enables Davis to graduate in May 2021 with both her high school diploma and her Associate in Applied Science degree.
Davis started volunteering with SGA in 2018 and became a senator with the organization in 2019. “I wanted to be SGA president because I saw it as an opportunity to help make an impact,” she said. “As president I know there are many responsibilities and duties, not to mention that the president is the voice for all students at the College. I wanted to be a part of that, to help students be heard and make sure they know they have people here for them.”
After Gaston College, Davis plans to attend East Carolina University to earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing and then a master’s in midwifery. She wants to work as a Certified Nurse-Midwife. “My career goal is to help as many people as possible,” she said, “and put the people I care for first.”
While serving as SGA president, however, Davis wants to help ensure that students enjoy their time at Gaston College, and she encourages them to actively participate in SGA. “Students will gain so many skills and have an abundance of growth while in SGA,” she said. “If anyone thinks they may be even a little bit interested, they should come talk to us.” The Gaston College SGA office is in Room 213 of the Myers Center on the College’s Dallas campus. The phone number to reach SGA is 704-922-6472.

Gaston County Schools
celebrates Teachers of the Year


Trent Sims earns Teacher Hero of COVID-19 award

Ashbrook High School chemistry teacher Trent Sims knows that the Little Free Libraries located at schools across the county serve as “food for the soul and for the mind” for students.  But when the coronavirus pandemic hit North Carolina in March and schools were closed for in-person instruction, Sims and his wife, Katie, worried about food to fill the stomachs of students who would no longer be at school to eat in the cafeteria.
The couple jumped into action, deciding to turn the Ashbrook Little Free Library, an outdoor resource center for books, into something more.  The two went to Sam’s Club and bought as much food and snacks as they could.  Then, they filled the library with food in an effort to make it available to the community.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, we realized we would be out of school for the foreseeable future,” Sims said. “My wife and I had all the resources we needed, but we realized there were students in our community who were going to struggle and that really hit home for us.”
The project gained traction around the county, and Trent and Katie were soon asking for donations and filling Little Free Libraries at Highland School of Technology and Gardner Park Elementary School.  Trent’s involvement in the project led to him being named a weekly “Teacher Hero of COVID-19,” a recognition program sponsored by FSI Office, HP, and the Carolina Panthers.
“It was a big surprise,” Sims said. “I had colleagues who nominated me and that is such an honor.  Being able to bring recognition to Ashbrook and to Gaston County is really important to me.
Sims said that he and Katie both love to read and enjoy being able to stock the Little Free Libraries with food and books.
For being nominated as a “Teacher Hero,” Sims received a large box of practical items like sanitizer, masks, and school supplies.  When he earned enough votes to be named a weekly winner, he was approached about the $1,000 prize being split up into $750 for school supplies and $250 to go toward purchasing food supplies for the libraries.  He said the decision was easy.
He also found out he would be attending a Carolina Panthers game with two free tickets.  At the game, he competed with six weekly winners and was announced as the overall winner.  This time, the honor included Panthers merchandise and another $1,000 for Ashbrook High School.
While the prizes are wonderful, the Gaston County native and Highland graduate said he has been overwhelmed by the support he has received for the project.
“It’s been amazing,” Sims said. “I’ve been getting notifications and texts and emails. I couldn’t be more thankful for my support system.”
Dr. Rebecca Wilson, principal at Ashbrook High School, said it’s been great to witness the outcome of the Little Free Libraries’ conversion to a place for free books and free food.
“Trent Sims has created a real, visible change throughout our community,” Wilson said. “Through all the difficulties our students have faced during this challenging time, they always knew the pantry would be stocked.  Mr. Sims has truly been a beacon of hope and encouragement for our students and for the community.”
And the recognition isn’t over yet.  The final prize involves the Panthers’ mascot, Sir Purr, which Sims said is generating lots of talk around school.  He said the classroom virtual visit may become a school-wide virtual visit.
Throughout the project, Sims has found it important to remind his students that the project isn’t about him, but instead it’s about making a difference when you can.
“It’s easy to sit back and let someone else do the work,” Sims said. “It can begin with me, but it shouldn’t end with me.  Pay it forward, and it comes back to you.  Our Little Free Pantry idea had a snowball effect where people were willing to step up and do the work in their community as well.  That’s what it’s all about.”

City of Lowell Briefs

New water meters
The City of Lowell will be installing new water meters for customers over the next 6 to 9 weeks. The City has created a Frequently Asked Questions page on its website to provide you more information and how this project will benefit  utility customers.

Fall Leaf Vacuum Schedule: October 16 - February 15
Leaves will be vacuumed if left at curb (no more than 2 ft) in a neat row. Leaves further in yard or near mailboxes will not be vacuumed. Please ensure there are no rocks, sticks, or brush mixed in with leaves.

Collecting coats
The Lowell Women’s Club is collecting new coats for kids in need at our local schools. Drop off locations are  Fryeday Coffee Roasters and  Kelly’s K-9 Kitchen, LLC.

Lowell Parks and Recreation will not be collecting coats this year but they do have available coats in their coat closet to hand out to those in need in our community. If you know someone in need, whether it’s a kid or an adult, please reach out to the Parks and Recreation Department at (704) 824-0099.